The card for this month is Gran Ibo, a mysterious spirit, whose worship has been forgotten in Haiti. The Ibo were a proud nation of Africans who chose to die free rather than live as slaves. Here in the US, we have a place called Ibo Landing in Georgia. It is remembered as the place where a group of Ibos chose to drown rather than step onto the land as slaves. The story continues to say they turned into birds and flew away. I find that an interesting intersection of myth and legend. In Vodou, we say the ancestors become birds who perch in the mighty Mapou tree, singing and calling to us until they return to God. Perhaps, it is the Ibos then who sing from the top of our enormous tree in the yard, calling to us before service work.
Legend also says that Gran Ibo was a maroon slave who escaped to the mountains, where she welcome everyone - Africans, Buccaneers, Taino and Arawak peoples into her camps. She was a free leader, and she granted that same status to anyone who sought her out in the mountain tops. Although we think of Haiti as an island, with white beaches, the interior has huge mountain ranges, some of which are nearly impassable. Those very same forests and rocky aeries was where the runaway slaves too refuge from the Spanish and French masters.
Although the Ibos are gone, we still have their songs. They are amongst the most danceable of melodies. When I want to get the house moving energetically in service, I throw an Ibo song to the choir, and invariably people leap to their feet and begin to dance with great joy and enthusiasm. A Haitian mambo who was gracing our temple with her presence once told me that she hadn’t heard any of the Ibo songs I sing in ages, and she was very grateful to hear them as her grandmother used to sing them as well. I felt honored to be able to share them with her.
Gran Ibo is the ancient mother of the Ibo nation and the great comforter. She is said to be the guardian of the flags of a houmfort. Gran Ibo is the one who takes it all in – all the secrets, all the people, all the pain and suffering. Her symbol is a canari jar, the earthen vessel in which she carries her power and secrets. The Ibos used canari jars, govis and other clay containers for storing their foods and as a symbol of their ancestral grounds. Forcibly removed from Africa where their family land was, and unable to have sacred ground here in the new world, the Ibos used their canaris and govis in place of the earth, for the holy burial of their dead. In this month of August, we will need to feed our ancestors to help keep our lives in equilibrium.
If you have a govi from your kanzo, this is a good month to feed it and redress it. Use three different essential oils that speak to you – a sweet one such as an orange or spearmint; a sharp one like pepper or basil; and a floral like jasmine or ylang ylang. Place your govi on the altar, and drop three of each oil into the vessel. As you do so, say the following prayer:
(drop the sweet oil) – For those I love who have gone before me.
(drop the sharp oil) – For those I lost in bitterness
(drop the floral) – For those who are yet to come.
Sit before the vessels and inhale deeply the three scents. Allow your mind to drift and later, make note of any images, words or feelings that came to you. These are the messages of the ancestors. Building upon them will bring blessings into your life.
The shadow of August is exalted, as represented by the Ayiti (Hierophant) card. This card’s traditional meaning is one of spirituality, religion, ritual and doing the right thing. I chose to use Max Beauvoir as the Hierophant, because of his position in Vodou in Haiti. He is very much the spiritual leader, and all about doing the right thing for Haiti and for the Vodouisants there. As the shadow of Gran Ibo, this card lends powerful consciousness to your choices. It will help you do the right thing for those who find their way to your door in August. Your teacher may arrive, or you may become the teacher for someone who comes to you for help. Be prepared by feeding the ancestors, keeping them present on your altar, and allowing their wisdom to be your guide this month.